Saudi Journal of Medicine and Medical Sciences

: 2014  |  Volume : 2  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 178--184

Study of environmental noise pollution in the university of dammam campus

Mahmoud F El-Sharkawy, Ali Alsubaie 
 Department of Environmental Health, College of Applied Medical Sciences, University of Dammam, Dammam, Saudi Arabia

Correspondence Address:
Mahmoud F El-Sharkawy
P. O. Box 2435, Dammam - 31451
Saudi Arabia


Context: Noise pollution has been well-recognized as one of the major trepidations that can adversely affect public health and quality-of-life in urban areas across the globe. Community noise, or environmental noise, includes the primary sources of road, rail and air traffic, industries, and public works. Aims: The main aim of this study is to assess the noise level inside the University of Dammam (UD) campus. Settings and Design: Three different locations were selected for measuring noise levels during this study; outside walls, the internal streets, and inside several buildings of the UD campus. Materials and Methods: Levels of the environmental noise pollution were measured at three different periods of the academic year 2011-2012; during study days, final exams and the holiday periods. Statistical Analysis Used: Results of this research were statistically analyzed by the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences SPSS program. Results: Levels of noise outside walls of the UD campus were higher than those inside the campus walls at all periods. Inside the UD campus, levels of noise were the highest at locations that are characterized by the high traffic movement. In addition, the highest level of noise was recorded during the studying period, while the lowest level was obtained during the holiday period. Levels of the indoor noise inside buildings of the campus were nearly the same or very slightly higher than those of the outdoor levels which indicate that the effect of human activity inside university buildings on noise pollution can be neglected comparing with the outdoor sources. Conclusion: Both levels of noise inside and outside buildings were higher than their guideline values. These high noise levels require effective environmental control strategies and increasing awareness between all staff members inside universities camps.

How to cite this article:
El-Sharkawy MF, Alsubaie A. Study of environmental noise pollution in the university of dammam campus.Saudi J Med Med Sci 2014;2:178-184

How to cite this URL:
El-Sharkawy MF, Alsubaie A. Study of environmental noise pollution in the university of dammam campus. Saudi J Med Med Sci [serial online] 2014 [cited 2020 Sep 22 ];2:178-184
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Full Text


Noise pollution and its effect on human health and his welfare is recently considered as an important and vital issue which encourages scientists and interested agencies all over the world, such as World Health Organization (WHO), to conduct more researches concerning assessment of its levels and harmful effects. [1] Community noise, or environmental noise, is one of the most common pollutants. It is defined by the WHO as noise emitted from all activities in the community, except the industrial sectors. Examples of these activities include road, rail and air traffic, educational, construction and public works, recreational and the neighborhood. [2] In recent times, the environmental noise pollution has been recognized as one of the major environmental factors that adversely affects the quality-of-life in all countries of the world, particularly the urban areas. Levels of environmental noise pollution increase rapidly with the progress of years due to the rapid increase in human activities such as transportation, industrialization, and urbanization. [3],[4] Based on its bad effect on human health comfortable, the most population in the urban areas are forced to change their residence places far from the noisy sources to another silent secondary roads. [5] Environmental noise pollution differs from other types of pollution categories, such as occupational noise exposure, because it has a large number of sources inside each community, in addition to its wide adverse effects on public health, environment, and quality-of-life in general. [3] Several studies revealed that there has been a considerable increase in the environmental noise pollution levels emitted from the anthropogenic sources, particularly the traffic activity. [6],[7],[8] Traffic noise pollution is mainly related to engine noise and/or rolling noise caused by the friction of tires on the road surface. [9] Other researches have been conducted in several cities of the world to study the bad effects of environmental noise pollution on the human's health, comfort, and welfare. [10],[11],[12] It was concluded that, excessive exposure to environmental noise during day-time is associated with annoyance and reduced quality-of-life (headache, dizziness, and fatigue) or direct hearing loss and/or hearing impairment. [13],[14] In addition, noise annoyance produces a variety of negative emotional attitudes including anger, disappointment, unhappiness, anxiety, and even depression. [15],[16],[17] Cardiovascular diseases were also linked with exposure to high levels of environmental noise pollution. [18]

University of Dammam (UD) is located in Dammam City, the Eastern Province Capital of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It lies near Dammam seaport and is surrounded from the north by Saudi Naval Institute, from the east by new buildings of UD and the main coastal road and from the south by Al-Rakha District. The residential campus of UD is located at the North West side. The total area of the UD Campus is 525 Ha. Inside the Campus, there are several colleges and other buildings for the educational, social, and administrative services. The UD campus receives daily more than 2000 cars for students and more than 1000 cars for staff and employees. [19]

No previous studies have been conducted to investigate levels of noise pollution inside universities campus in Saudi Arabia. The main aim of this study is the assessment of noise pollution level inside the UD campus. This study is considered as an initial and indicator for other similar universities in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.


Sites of measurements

Three different types of locations were selected for measuring noise levels during this study; outside walls (outside the campus itself), the internal streets (campus roads) and inside several buildings of the UD campus. The outside locations included the main coastal traffic road and other branched traffic roads. The internal streets included all main streets, such as the main gate, and some of the branched streets. The buildings included educational (such as college buildings), administrative (such as the main administrative building of the campus) and services buildings (such as library and restaurant).

Sampling method

Levels of noise intensity were measured by the Bruel and Kjaer Hand-held Analyzer, Type 2250 Sound Level Meter (SLM). [20] This SLM has the ability to measure instantaneously the following values; the now live and fast LAF (which represents the now live noise level, in which, a reading every 5 s is automatically recorded), LAFmax and LAFmin (which represent the maximum and minimum noise levels during the overall period of measurement), and the equivalent continuous level LAeq (which represents the measured value which needs to be averaged over a period of time for all LAF readings. We consider the LAeq values in our study. The start-up time of this SLM depends on the state the instrument was in when last switched off and it may take up to 2 min from a cold start, or up to 10 s if the instrument is already in standby mode, (i.e., from a warm start).

At each selected location, the instrument was operated continuously for 1 min as a start-up time, and for a continuous measuring period of 10-15 min during which several readings of noise were automatically recorded and saved. At the end of this period, the lowest and highest levels in addition to the weighted value (LAeq) were considered as the net results.

The one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) is used to determine whether there are any significant differences between the means with regards to levels of noise measured in this study. As it has been used largely, P < 0.05 will be considered statistically significant.

Sampling duration

Levels of the environmental noise pollution were measured at three different periods of the academic year 2011-2012 to study the effect of human and traffic activity inside the UD campus. The first one was the "study period" during the five academic studying days (Saturday-Wednesday). This period is characterized by the maximum educational, administrative and other student activities. During this period, two different times were selected for noise measurements; at the morning rush hour (7.00-8.00 am) and an afternoon hour (1.00-2.00 pm). The second period was the "final exam period" during which, measurements of noise were conducted at the first exam hour (8.00-9.00 am). This period is characterized by relatively low activity inside the university because most or all students are present inside the exam rooms. The third period was the "holiday period" which included two main holidays, the midterm and summer holidays. During this period, it is known that most activities inside the university campus are inhibited or completely stopped.


Levels of noise pollution inside university campuses vary depending on several factors such as outside activity, internal activity, period of the year, time of the day, and others. Some of these factors were studied inside the UD campus during the current study.

Outside activity

Campus of UD is surrounded by traffic roads from all sides; one of them is considered the main coastal road with moderate and sometimes high traffic activity particularly at the morning rush hour. [Figure 1] represents levels of the environmental noise pollution inside and outside the campus of UD during the selected three periods of the academic year. Mean levels of noise outside the campus during the study, exam and holiday periods were 67.1, 64.1 and 62.1 dB, respectively, while those inside the campus were 65.5, 63.1, and 55.6 dB, respectively.{Figure 1}

Internal activity

[Figure 2] shows mean levels of the environmental noise at different locations inside the campus of UD itself and outside its buildings. It is evident that the highest mean levels were recorded at four locations; at the main gate (71.6 dB), outside the main administrative building (68.3 dB), outside the deanship of registration building (68.2 dB), and at the side gate of the campus (68.0 dB). All of these locations are characterized by the high traffic movement during most of the academic day in addition to their proximity to the outside roads compared with the other sites. Excluding the outside traffic movement source from [Figure 1], it is clear that levels of the environmental noise inside the campus were in accordance with the magnitude of the traffic activity during each period (i.e. the highest mean level of noise was found during the studying period, while the lowest level was obtained during the holiday period).{Figure 2}

Effect of human activity

During the current study, levels of indoor noise pollution were measured inside all buildings of the UD campus that included educational building (such as colleges), services buildings (such as the central library and photocopy center) and recreational buildings (such as restaurant). Inside colleges, three locations were selected; one of them was representing the main hall or entrance, while the other two locations were representing two different educational classrooms. In the other buildings (services and recreational), two different locations were selected as measuring points for noise level. [Figure 3] illustrates mean levels of noise inside and outside the main eight buildings of the UD camp. Levels of the indoor noise were nearly the same or very slightly higher than those of the outdoor levels, which indicate that the effect of human activity inside university buildings on noise pollution can be neglected comparing with the outdoor sources. The one-way ANOVA test [Table 1] indicated that, there was no significant statistical differences (P > 0.05) between the indoor and outdoor noise levels.{Figure 3}{Table 1}


As shown in [Figure 1], it is obvious that levels of noise pollution outside the UD campus were slightly higher than those inside the campus walls during the three studied periods. This indicates that location of the UD campus is greatly affected by the outdoor sources of noise, particularly the traffic activity, in addition to its effect by the internal human and traffic activity inside the campus but with lower extent. This finding is in accordance with several studies in different cities of the world. For example, the study which had been conducted for assessing noise levels in eight different districts across Seoul, Korea, revealed that Leq, at the roadside over all districts, averaged 61.4 dB. [7] In another study, the day-time urban noise quality assessment was studied in Kolhapur, an ancient city of India, for five critical zones where its results indicated that the highest Leq of 72.25 dB was observed in the industrial, followed by 64.47 dB in the commercial zone, 63.71 dB in the educational zone, 53.26 dB in the recreational zone, and 42.84 dB in the silence zone. [3] On the other hand, several studies were carried out to study the effect of high noise levels on people's health and welfare. One of these studies had been achieved to evaluate the noise pollution problem in the Varanasi city in India and study its effect on the exposed people. This study revealed the fact that noise levels have reached an alarming level and 85% of the people were disturbed by traffic noise, while about 90% of the people reported that traffic noise is the main cause of headache, high blood pressure (BP) problem, dizziness, and fatigue. [4]

The Source-Path-Receiver framework sketched in [Figure 4] is central to all environmental noise studies. Each transit source generates close-by noise levels which depend upon the type of source and its operating characteristics. Then, along the propagation path between all sources and receivers, noise levels are reduced (attenuated) by distance, intervening obstacles, and other factors. Finally at each receiver, noise combines from all sources to interfere, perhaps, with receiver activities. [21]{Figure 4}

The one-way ANOVA test [Table 1] indicated that, there were strong significant statistical differences (P < 0.01) between noise levels during the three periods of study, while levels of noise during two different durations of the academic studying day (morning and afternoon) were nearly the same with no significant difference (P > 0.05) as shown in [Figure 5]. On the other hand, statistical comparison of results in relation to the site activity [Table 2] indicated that there was no significant difference (P > 0.05) between results of outside and inside the UD campus from one side or between results of outside and inside its buildings from the other side, while there was a strong significant statistical differences (P < 0.01) between noise levels of outside the campus itself and inside its buildings. All of these data confirm that traffic activity is considered the main source of noise pollution inside the UD campus.{Figure 5}{Table 2}

The most human activity within the camp of any university is the educational process and the accompanying services, such as administrative, recreational, cleaning, maintenance, and other services. In spite of the presence of these services within each university buildings, its size and magnitude varies from one building to another, depending on the nature of the educational process itself. For example, human activity inside the practical colleges is generally higher than inside the theoretical colleges because of the presence of labs equipped with several types of instruments and presence of students and technicians for a long time inside these labs. Even in colleges with similar type, the size of human activity varies depending on the size of the college and the number of students, faculty members and workers. All of these factors considerably affect the level of noise inside the building itself, particularly in classrooms during lessons or exams. To confirm this fact, a statistical test (one-way ANOVA) was conducted to compare between mean noise levels inside different classrooms of three colleges with different activity, two of them are considered practical colleges (College of Applied Medical Sciences, CAMS and College of Medicine, CM), while the third is considered a theoretical one (College of Community Services). Results of this test are illustrated in [Table 3], in which, it is clear that there was significant statistical differences (P < 0.05) between the practical and theoretical colleges, while there was no significant difference (P > 0.05) between the practical colleges themselves.{Table 3}

Acceptable limits for noise pollution

Acceptable limits for noise should be consistent with the environmental noise climate that currently exists at a location such that an adverse impact on the environment and affected property are avoided, and simultaneously maintain a reasonable balance with physical development and/or activities. Under normal circumstances, these sound levels shall apply to outdoor locations at the real property boundary of the receiver (typically residential areas, or other noise sensitive area). This shall include assessment of sound levels from road traffic, railways, and other noise source(s). [22] When multiple adverse health effects are identified for a given environment, the guideline values are set at the level of the lowest adverse health effect (the critical health effect). An adverse health effect of noise refers to any temporary or long-term deterioration in physical, psychological or social functioning that is associated with noise exposure. The guideline values represent the sound pressure levels that affect the most exposed receiver in the listed environment. For school and university environment, the critical of noise are on speech interference, disturbance of information extraction (e.g., comprehension and reading acquisition), message communication and annoyance. To be able to hear and understand spoken messages in classrooms, the background sound pressure level should not exceed 35 dB LAeq during teaching sessions. For outdoor environment (e.g., playground), the sound pressure level of the noise from external sources should not exceed 55 dB LAeq, the same value given for outdoor residential areas in day-time. [23]

The mean level of noise outside walls of the UD campus was 64.4 dB, while inside the campus itself, the mean level was 61.4 dB. Both of the two values are higher than the outdoor guideline value (55 dB). On the other hand, the indoor levels of noise ranged from 54.9 dB inside the Community Service College building to 60.7 dB inside the Architecture College building. All of these levels are also much higher than the indoor guideline value (35 dB). This means that occupants of UD may be badly affected due to their long-term exposure to these high levels of environmental noise. Environmental noise can produce negative effects on people's health since it interferes with basic activities such as sleeping, resting, studying and communicating. In addition, chronic noise exposure may cause longer-term activation of several predictable physiological responses such as increased heart rate, BP, and endocrine outputs. These effects depend not only on the physical characteristics of the noise itself, but also on parameters associated to each person and each environment. It is thus important to study noise pollution from a quantitative point of view as well as a from the point of view of the annoyance that it produces in the population. [24],[25],[26]


Location of any university campus is a crucial factor in the noise pollution level inside each campus. Traffic movement inside the UD campus is the main source of the high environmental noise pollution levels, both inside, and outside buildings of the campus. All levels of noise inside the campus were higher than the recommended guidelines, which mean that all occupants of UD are exposed to the bad effects of noise pollution. Avoiding this problem requires the right selection of new university campuses and transferring all car parks outside the campus where internal buses can transport the staff and students to their places inside the campus. In addition, the university administration should recognize its role as an environmentally responsible organization and is committed to promoting environmental awareness for all students and staff.


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